Edna Pontellier is a 29-year-old mother of two in late nineteenth century Louisiana. As befits a woman in her station, she has maids to clean, cooks to prepare her food, and a nanny to care for her young ones. As Kate Chopin’s novella The Awakening (published 1889) begins, she is spending her summer vacation at a lake, where she begins to see her husband’s treatment of her, her pointless “proper” behavior, and especially her own sexual identity in a new light. For the first time, she recognizes herself as more than the superficial image her era dictates her to be. As she develops a friendship with a young man, Robert, Edna becomes awakened to her own limitless possibilities for self-determination.
At once both a feminist tale and a sexual awakening story, The Awakening delves into the complex emotions of a woman searching for herself. Edna searches for ever-elusive happiness, and when society fails to meet her in her newly discovered self, she abandons the social mores and traditions for her self. Although The Awakening is short, I found it to be an intriguing look into society of the late nineteenth century American middle class, as well as a story that may unfortunately be all too resonant to women today. (more…)
Raisin is well in to early chapter books now. With Strawberry’s arrival and my subsequent absence from the blogosphere (as compared to my posting habits before her birth), I haven’t posted on his reading as frequently as it deserves. I feel like his reading skills improve from week to week!
Back in March, I posted about the early readers he was enjoying, including Fly Guy series by Tedd Arnold and P.J. Funnybunny books by Marilyn Sadler. Now, just six months later, I feel we’ve skipped into an entirely new category. Here are some of the early chapter books he currently enjoys. (more…)
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (originally published serially in 1910) is a book full of memories for me. When I was a young girl, I recall staying home, sick, from school one day. My mom took our copy of The Secret Garden down off the shelf, and, just for me, she began reading it aloud.
The day when I brought my newborn daughter Strawberry home from the hospital, I pulled my copy down and began reading it aloud to her. She was about four days old. I read it during those first months when I was in a daze of sleep deprivation. I read it as I helped her calm down for the night. I read it more recently as our bedtime story. I finally finished it for her last week, when she was 5.5 months old.
The Secret Garden is a book about the magic of positive thinking. Burnett takes two cantankerous, negative, and spoiled children and places them together in a new setting: a garden that needs a bit of TLC in order to bloom back in to the beautiful and magnificent haven it once was. With a loveable animal charmer child, young Dickon, the children learn the power of positive thinking and experience the benefits of hard work in the open air. As sour orphan Mary Lennox and her invalid cousin Colin Craven resuscitate the seemingly dead garden and put in a bit of work, they too begin to blossom into pleasant people. (more…)
Because my son is so young, I’m just beginning to re-familiarize myself with middle grade fiction; I haven’t really read much since I was a youngster. I remember really loving the gentle rural setting of Patricia MacLachlan’s Sarah, Plain and Tall when I was a young girl: it was one of my favorite books. When I saw a new book by Ms MacLachlan, I thought I’d give it a try; the publisher, via LibraryThing Early Reviewers, sent me a copy for review consideration. I’m also delighted to see Ms MacLachlan has an extensive back list of titles to explore.
Patricia MacLachlan’s Kindred Souls (2012, Katherine Tegen Books) is set in a pleasant contemporary rural setting, a setting that I’m not familiar with as a suburban dweller myself. Young Jake treasures his friendship with his aging grandfather, Billy, who longs for the simplicity of his childhood. Jake and Billy visit the rundown sod house in which Billy was born and raised, and Billy challenges Jake to rebuild it. Although Jake does not feel he can do such a hard project, his love for his grandfather prompts him to try.They are “kindred souls,” afterall.
Kindred Souls is a story of inter-generational love, an inspirational story of a child who succeeds in doing a hard thing, and a gentle reminder to enjoy life now, for life is fleeting. Parents should be away that the easy-to-read middle-grade novel addresses a tough issue, the obviously approaching death of the boy’s elderly grandfather. Not every child will be ready to consider mortality, but for those that are, Ms MacLachlan treats it with tenderness. I doubt children will be disturbed by any implications. The novel is a sweet reflection on a grandparent/child relationship, and the rural farm setting provides a unique perspective on life for a young reader.
I enjoyed Kindred Souls and I look forward to reading more middle-grade fiction as my son gets older.
The image on the cover is Carson McCullers.
At my classics book club last night, one of the women had not had a chance to read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (published 1940), but she came to hear the discussion about it nonetheless. She was not familiar with the book, and as we discussed it, she commented on how strange it all sounded.
“It sounds like it’s about a bunch of misfits that no one listens to,” she said.
We all concurred. And yet, such a summary does not do justice to the complexities that 23-year-old Carson McCullers captured in her debut novel, a small snapshot of life in a small Southern town in the Great Depression era.
“Snapshot” is the wrong word, however. McCullers herself was a musician (passing up her acceptance to Julliard for lack of money) and she dubbed her novel a “fugue.”
“Like a voice in a fugue, each one of the main characters is an entity in himself – but his personality takes on a new richness when contrasted and woven in with the other characters in the book.” (Quoted on the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt study guide)
Such is the set up of the book: four lonely people in a small town turn to the only man who seems to care about them, the deaf and mute John Singer. Ironically, this deaf-mute is the only one who “listens” to their concerns and stories. He can read lips, and he is able to speak (he was trained as a child) yet simply chooses not to respond in the conversations he has with the “lonely hunters” who visit him. He responds simply with a smile and a nod. Each chapter focuses on one of the “lonely hunters,” alternating among all of them, including the deaf-mute, who, despite his appearance as a confessor and friend for the others, is in actually the loneliest of them all.